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Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill

Volume 817: debated on Monday 10 January 2022

Third Reading

Schedule 1: The Advanced Research and Invention Agency

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: Schedule 1, page 7, line 40, leave out from beginning to “not” and insert “Sub-paragraph (1) does”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment removes a reference to a paragraph that was removed at Report.

My Lords, Amendment 1 is minor and technical and is consequential to the amendment made on Report in the name of my noble friend Lady Noakes.

My noble friend’s amendment removed the power for the Secretary of State to determine a pension or gratuity for non-executive members. This government amendment is needed to remove a reference to that power, which no longer exists, in paragraph 7(4) of Schedule 1. This paragraph disapplies the power for the Secretary of State to determine a pension or gratuity for the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, who will sit as a non-executive member on ARIA’s board ex officio. The power is of course not relevant in this case due to the Chief Scientific Adviser’s existing employment and pension entitlement as a civil servant. As the original power no longer exists, I am sure that noble Lords will agree that this reference needs to be removed to tidy up the Bill before it returns to the Commons for consideration of the amendments made in this House.

My Lords, is it in order to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, on her success in moving her amendment in Committee? I watched as it went through and I thought how pleasing it must be for anyone to get an amendment accepted by the Government.

Amendment 1 agreed.


Moved by

My Lords, it is my great pleasure to thank all those who have supported the progress of this Bill. I first thank my Whip, my noble friend Lady Bloomfield, who is currently demonstrating just how good she is at multi-tasking because she is in Grand Committee supervising another piece of legislation going through. It is always a joy to work alongside her with her support, capability and good humour.

As we have debated this Bill, I am of course grateful to have witnessed the shared ambition across the House for our nation to cement its role as a science superpower and for recognition of the important role that additional funding for high-risk research can play within that, through the ARIA model. While this is a relatively short Bill, the debate has none the less been thorough, as is right and proper in this House—from the role of ARIA in the R&D landscape to the definition of gratuities. It has demonstrated once again the important function of this House.

To that end, I join the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, in thanking my noble friend Lady Noakes for her efforts in sharpening the governance arrangements set out in the Bill, and my other noble friends Lord Willetts, Lord Lansley and Lady Neville-Rolfe, among others, for contributing their considerable experience.

I thank, on the part of the Opposition, the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, for her constructive challenge on many parts of the Bill. I think we worked well together, and I look forward to continuing to work with her on future Bills. I also pay tribute to the noble Lords, Lord Ravensdale, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones, the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, and members of the Science and Technology Committee for their very thoughtful contributions. I particularly welcome the thoughtful debate we have had on, for instance, intellectual property and the importance of retaining its benefits. I thank all noble Lords who spoke on these important issues. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, especially, will closely follow the words of the Science Minister as the Bill returns to the other place.

It would be remiss of me not to also thank, once again, the excellent team of officials who have been behind me on this Bill. As always, I am just the front guy, as it were. Their support has been invaluable and a tribute once again to the finest traditions of the Civil Service. I particularly single out my private secretary, Hannah Cowie, for her support; the Bill manager, Andrew Crawford, and his deputy, Salisa Kaur; and Katie Reardon, Alex Prior, Robert Magowan and Charles Norris for their work over the last 18 months—a considerable time—to take this Bill forward and, hopefully in the near future, get it on the statute book. I also thank the broader ARIA team and colleagues across government who are undertaking the programme of work to make it a brilliant and realistic success.

Finally, let me recognise the exemplary work of the parliamentary counsel in both drafting this Bill and supporting its progress at so many points during its passage so far, and, of course, the House authorities, parliamentary staff, clerks and doorkeepers. As I mentioned, this is a relatively short Bill, but I really do believe its potential impact is profound. I know I am not alone in this House in looking forward in anticipation to all that will come out of ARIA and the benefits it will create for the research community, businesses and the everyday lives of people across this country.

My Lords, first I should apologise for not being here to participate in the Report stage of this Bill. My disappointment was alleviated by the knowledge that my colleague and noble friend Lord Clement-Jones would more than compensate for my absence. I thank him for that and for his assistance throughout consideration of the Bill, and my noble friends Lady Randerson and Lord Oates for their work. I also thank the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, and the departmental team that has seen this Bill through; and the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman, the Labour Party and their team for working with us and the Cross-Benchers in a collegiate way. This was an example of good scrutiny coming to the fore. Finally, a big thank you to Sarah Pughe in our office for her support.

We still do not really know what ARIA is. Until it is decided who is leading ARIA, we will not know what its purpose is or how it will interact with the rest of the research environment. During the debate the Minister undertook to keep us informed—while enshrining secrecy in the Bill, of course, at the same time. So, I hope he will be able to keep us well informed as this effort unfolds —indeed, perhaps in advance of things happening. Without wishing to rain on the parade, we should keep a sense of proportion about what this is. This primary legislation has put in place a research effort worth about £200 million to 300 million per year. Meanwhile, the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe has more or less evaporated. During the debate, there were many discussions about the effectiveness of UKRI. In accepting this Bill and moving forward with ARIA, we would be grateful if the Minister also addressed these two elephants in the room: the continued participation of the United Kingdom in Horizon Europe and making sure that UKRI is as effective as it really can be, in order to make a big difference to the research effort in this country.

My Lords, we are pleased to see ARIA move to its next stage and we look forward to the inventions and innovations that will come from it. I was particularly pleased to see the amendment from my noble friend Lord Browne, which will secure the intellectual property that comes about as a result of investment by taxpayers via ARIA. I hope that Ministers in the other place see the benefit of it and feel able to support it. We will, of course, be listening very carefully to what is said about that.

As the Minister well knows, we are concerned by the rejection of the amendments on transparency and accountability. As the noble Lord, Lord Fox, rightly reminded us, the research environment has changed dramatically since our departure from the EU, and we would encourage Ministers to resolve their outstanding differences and make sure that Horizon participation is secured for the future.

However, for today, I would just like to thank the Minister and his team. He is correct in what he said about the nature of the discussions we had. This is my first Bill in this place and I have learned an awful lot and made some new friends, I think, through the process of the Bill, particularly my noble friend Lord Stansgate, and the noble Lords, Lord Morse, Lord Ravensdale, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones—I have already mentioned my noble friend Lord Browne. I also thank the officers of the House and all other noble Lords who contributed. I should put on record, too, my thanks to Dan Stevens, our political and legislative adviser, who has been enormously helpful to me, as a new Member, in being prepared for the process of seeing through a Bill in this place. I thank all noble Lords who contributed.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.